As an avid watcher of every crime drama going, I see televised depictions of violence and abuse almost daily. Rape is always ugly, never deserved and usually the bad guy is put away by the end of the episode. And as the camera zooms in on a ugly snarling male, having been demeaned and humiliated in the interrogation by a fabulously made-up, impossibly beautiful female detective who has been up working a case 7 days straight, you hear the words echo:
‘No, always means No.’
But does it?
The Cultural Impact of Language
What I love about language is that is drives and is driven by humanity and culture. It can be both a vicious and virtuous circle.
I am pretty convinced for example, that the German trait of better than average powers of organisation, is in part perpetuated by the fact that every single German, has to plan what they say in advance in order to put their verb at the end of the sentence. From birth. They’re always one move ahead. In fact when I look up ‘Famous Chess players by nationality’ on Wikipedia I find that Germany has 210 entries – third in the leagues table after America (309) and Russia (286) which are both far bigger than Germany in population. More specifically America’ population is 315 Million, whilst Russia stand at 143 million compared with Germany’s mere 81 million.
Thus we have defined polar opposites of ’Yes and No’ driven by our minds who like things to be black and white, but their existence also reinforces these opposites. They are binary values in a world defined by shades of grey. The fact that we only have two options to choose from, forces us into saying what we don’t really mean. Because one can still say yes with reservations. Or indeed no with a thinly disguised willingness to be persuaded. Sometimes ‘No’ doesn’t really mean ‘No’.
Rape on the telly vs. Rape in Reality
In crime TV, the man often comes from the position ‘she meant yes’ whilst the women come in all shapes and sizes from hookers, to doctors and students and their No, always means No. And this being drama, the rape often follows an ‘idealized pattern’. Force is involved and often bloody violence with plenty of tense music thrown in. Of course the majority of real life rape is hardly ever like that.
For any woman who has been through the mangle of life like I have punctuated by violence, alcoholism and promiscuity, rape is not far away …that time in the woods at age 17 where I shouted for help – but fairly quietly so as not to anger him further and out of shame for being there in the first place, that time in the club where someone put horse tranquilizer in my drink and then later punched me in the face for not moving enough during intercourse and the time I actually plucked up the courage to go to the police and was put through 10 hours of waiting and interrogation, just to be laughed out in the end because my case wasn’t ‘legitimate’ enough. And if you are to include the strict definition of rape to be where someone coerces a woman to have sex against her will, I would say more. It’s not like the TV dramas, and the trauma I suffered was only part and parcel of the slow and steady degradation of my self esteem, until saying no….really didn’t mean anything at all. Of course, had I been in Law & Order ‘no would have meant no’ instead of what my no meant, which was ‘well you know, I don’t believe in my own self worth enough to even make a legitimate attempt to refuse you so instead I’ll just say a half-hearted no, get drunk and wait for the inevitable.’ There was a lot of ambiguity behind my ‘no’.
I’m no rape apologist. I don’t say I was ‘to blame’ for my rapes. And I would take exception to anyone who said that. Because whilst it was irresponsible of me to put myself in those positions, I had no resources to do or be any other way. But I do say that putting all the ‘blame’ on my so-called rapists is to totally disregard human condition.
Blame perpetuates this black and white, dichotomous judgment and does little to solve the issue. We are rarely creatures who give an unambiguous answer because our motivations are multi-stranded. Whilst it is impossible to make any call on anyone else’s situation, in my own cases those opportunist and ego driven men who had little awareness outside their own desire, spotted the stray and weak member of the herd. Me. Who was, at the time, the girl the least likely to say ‘no’. Or at least mean it.
That’s why the ‘No always means No’ justification is ineffectual…because for many women it is basically a lie. And there’s no shortage of opportunistic men who know this. Are they all evil bastards? Hardly. Are they all human beings with their own set of diminished resources and issues? Of course. But if we could only bolster and encourage the self esteem and worth of our women, then our own personal resource bank might be strengthened. Because whilst it might not solve the entire problem of rape, the female herd would be infinitely better protected if all women loved themselves enough to say NO and mean it.
Category: Adulthood & Relationships